100 Releases – where do we go from here? Part Two….

Continuing the story of German Shepherd records, so far, which started here

So 2014 ended on a bit of a high. We hadn’t made much money but we had made a lot of new friends and we had a healthy roster of artists. Moet had chosen the successor to KP2, from henceforth he would be producing things as Ion-Morph. But we were going to start the new year on a high. We had met Alana Bondi a few months back at one of our gigs at The Crescent and we were impressed by her tunes. Tony Thornborough had featured on his radio show with Steve Nicholson so we were aware that she was a special talent. We agreed to do a single, and EP and possibly an album over 2015. Alana produced a stunning single “S O S” which was breathtakingly good, here was an artist that needed to be heard. We had also been toying with widening our distribution to the major digital outlets. A number of people told us to use Tunecore, advice which proved less than helpful in the long run, but we took a view that we should get Alana out to as wide an audience as possible. Things are on hold at the moment with Alana’s product due to personal matters but we hope to give her the audience she deserves later in the year or maybe next year.

Alana Bondi
Alana Bondi

I had been working on some new music over the Christmas period and had constructed a complex piece which fitted well with a set of lyrics called “The Wilsons”  that Moet had held over from Kill Pretty days. I’d also become pretty disillusioned with the deification of certain rock stars and a set of lyrics came tumbling out on Boxing Day after a particularly hedonistic beer tasting session. The tunes would become the first Ion-Morph/Space Museum release. This was quickly followed by our most extreme release to date by sound artist Zophocles, and continuing our Hamsters obsession the release of Fall Fan Dave’s legendary set of covers of the band. “I want to put something out every other week” said Moet. It looked like we were going to be able to deliver on that target.

We were on a bit of a roll with Ion-Morph and Space Museum tunes and released another single “The Strawberry Fields/Cactus Curtain”, the set of new Moff Skellington albums was continued with “The Corduroy Bridge” and the following week Ion-Morph was back with “Check The Tsunami” in partnership with Nemo.

Around this time both of us were struck down with one form of lurgy or another and the chance to meet and discuss things was limited to a fleeting encounter in Swinton where Moet handed over a pile of albums from Seedhill Bruiser. “You’ll like these” he said. I did. We had found another artist we could champion. Although a lot of Tim Wilson’s material has been released in the past by other labels there was not a current outlet for the maverick scotsman’s work, he needed a shop window to display his excellent music. We kicked off with a compilation of his work under the Pusbunny name.

UC26 the corduroy bridge Cover

Moet had talked for some time about committing all of his lyrics from the Kill Pretty days to a spoken word album. Simple maths indicated the words could take up about three albums worth. We kicked off the process with an Ion-Morph/Space Museum release called “Legalise Drugs/War Porn”, a small indication of the mammoth piece of work that was to follow. After much cajoling I managed to convince Rose Niland to let us release a set of tunes from the German Shepherd gig at the Crescent where together with Mark Corrin she had delivered an exemplary performance. Ever self-effacing Rose felt her vocals were not as good as she would want but I made the case that set needed to be heard. The recording by Jim Watts was excellent and the EP captures the spirit of the live Niland experience. It was only March and we were motoring.

Moet had been working with Johann Kloos again and the material recorded provided enough for two releases. First up was the driving “My Dark Passenger”, a sexy little number with a great feel. This was followed by the third of the new Moff albums, the excellent “The Corkscrew Tongue” which found the master of Eddodi at the height of his powers. The end of March saw our first Seedhill Bruiser release, his 2006 album “K-Hole”, a simply mesmerising experimental rock album.

Rose Niland

We met in Morrisons, Eccles, one early spring day and planned out the rest of the year. There was a lot to do, obscure north Lancashire band Hard The Transition had presented us with some material, too much to release to be honest, but we will get to it eventually, however we decided to work with them and kicked off with the mysterious “I am the Storm”. We knew Jason Hurley from his Taser Puppets days and he had a new band called The Electric Cheese. Jason had sent through a set of four excellent tunes under the general title “Lactose Intolerant”, we were broadening our range of artists and offering excellent “outsider” music for those who wanted to hear it.

The success of the Positronik album lead to a conversation with Jeff Black (that bands main writer) about his own solo material which had been appearing in various social media locations, after a short discussion we agreed to put out an album under the Captain Black name. It was a genuine tour de force with a variety of material which left newcomers like Public Sector Broadcasting gasping in its’ wake. That release was coupled with four tracks from the recent Ion-Morph/Johann Kloos sessions released under the title “Chase The Dog”.

A mammoth three album set of the spoken word of Ian Moss came out on April 10th. All proceeds were to go to local worthy causes. This was a draining experience as we worked non-stop to complete the project. It met with mixed reception, as anticipated. On the same day we released the first ever single by the legendary Manchester band Hamsters. A homage to the rocker Vince Taylor the song gained a lot of support for the recently reformed band.

The Hamsters

The following week saw the release of the final piece of the latest run of Moff Skellington works. Under The Cobweb Sea was an ambitious 14 minute piece which was a perfect example of Eddodi. A four track EP from Ion-Morph and Loop-Aznavour was released on the same day.  At the time we said “In an increasingly post-rational world where cyber attacks are the norm, where fratricide is too often witnessed, where the very life is sucked from the marrow of existence by those who would batter us into their world view, and, where the dull cocktail party ennui of the misanthropes and pseudo-intellectuals dumbs down even the most benign of conversational endeavour how refreshing to have Messrs Morph and Aznavour to tear the artifice of polarisation apart.”

A trio of older Seedhill Bruiser albums was released on April 24th – we have since withdrawn one from sale while Tim remasters it – but we were collating a good historical record of his work. Granite Fists and Seedhill Folk Songs have proved successful and demonstrate his importance as a writer and musician. After the head long rush of producing three albums of spoken word Spring gave us a chance for some reflection and a more measured pace of writing and composing. Doing just one tune a day instead of several dozen was a relief. This proved to be a productive period and the variety of material on the Sacred and Profane EP from Ion-Morph and Space Museum demonstrated that working a bit slower on things does genuinely result in positive outcomes.

May saw the commencement of our releases of Moff Skellington back catalogue, working backwards, with Villages of Bicycle Rain. A first project between Ion-Morph and Modal Roberts followed as did a solo release from Space Museum and a further collaboration of the latter with Ion-Morph. A second Hard The Transition release,  was followed by another from the Moff back catalogue, the excellent Skegness.  Another single from Ion-Morph and Loop-Aznavour was followed by an exciting new EP from The Junta – called Hydra.

The Junta
The Junta

June saw another Ion-Morph and Space Museum release and the next in the re-release of the Moff Skellington back catalogue with The Guild of Distant Relatives, the rest of the catalogue will be made available during the latter end of 2015 and 2016 with a large number of albums to get out there. The end of the month saw the release of a set of remixes of Junta tunes from the Hydra EP with contributions from Night Operation, Space Museum, Passage of Time, Captain Black and The Junta himself.

July saw a single release from the Moss brothers as Ion-Morph and Nemo, an excellent single from Ion-Morph and Loop-aznavour, and a first collaboration between Ion and Moff Skellington. The latter two collaborations would result in a live show later in the year. The Fabulous Auster Boys were dragged kicking and screaming out of retirement for a mini-album, and two of the Hamsters got together for a tasty single about religion. It was a busy period for Ion-Morph with single with U-Bob following and a solo single called Clown Time/Under Pressure.

Moff Moet Loop
Moff, Morph and Loop

Staggs were back in August with a stunning set of tunes called Shy Bairns Get Nowt, a second solo single from Ion-Morph, and a first new working project called IKMRAO explored other musical areas for Ian and Bob. Since we formed we had been given great support from Dave Hammond and his excellent Smelly Flowerpot Show on Cambridge 106. On one of his shows I heard a great band called Bouquet of Dead Crows in acoustic session. My expression of interest in the band led to a series of conversations and an agreement to release a couple of single and an album.  Laura and Steve from Monkeys In Love had worked with us on first release and some 19 months later we got around to releasing an excellent EP from the band. Tim had produced some new Seedhill Bruiser songs over the summer and we were really pleased to release some new material from him with the Bus Drivers EP. A new IKMRAO single and a couple of one off releases from The German Shepherds focused on the political changes in the UK, and this as followed by the release of a single by Una Baines Poppycock band.

Space Museum released a first album and IKMRAO produced a new EP, and together with a second single of Bouquet of Dead Crows, September proved to be a busy month.

Bouquet of Dead Crows

Early October saw an excellent solo album from Nemo, a collection of instrumental vignettes, which demonstrated our willingness to mix up the genres on the label. A lot of soul searching went on around this time about why we still doing this. We were going to continue, but we might need to review our raison d’etre, if we weren’t going to get more exposure. But then serendipity kicked in….

I had long been a fan of the work of local band Sam Smith & Company and the subsequent group The Parish Church Fire. Sam had decided for a change in direction in 2015 with a new approach under the new title Franco Bandini. Sam sent us the tracks and we were blown away by the change in sound and the quality of the material. We agreed to release an EP, As part of the discussion Sam introduced us to a digital distribution organisation called AWAL who appeared to be much better than Tunecore, who we had been using for a limited number of releases with very little success, and a lot of cost. After some negotiation it become clear it would make sense to stop using Tunecore and move to AWAL. Our first four releases via AWAL would be The Bouquet of Dead Crows album, the Franco Bandini EP, a new EP from Hamsters and our 100th release a compilation of some of our artists which we hope will act as a shop window for our label.

So 20 months in and with 100+ releases under a belt we are pleased with what we have put out, we are happy with the growing support and interest in the label and with the opportunities that the relationship with AWAL offers us. We have not made a great deal of money over that time period, and anything we have made has gone straight back to the bands after the usual fees from Bandcamp and Paypal have been taken out. The downside of Bandcamp is that you don’t  get paid for any streaming so with some 21, 000 streams on there since we started we feel that the artists are losing out and are looking forward to the new digital deal to rectify that and get some cash back for the artists.

We need to thank all the DJs who have supported us over the last 20 months, I won’t name them all as it will take to long, but you know who you are. Also many thanks to the artists who have worked with us.

With new music coming from Pearl Divers, West Coast Sick Line, Moff Skellington, Ion-Morph working with Ding, Loop-aznavour and Modal Roberts, and a collaboration between Ion, Moff and Loop brewing away in the background there is a lot more to come. We also have some exciting options in the pipeline to work with at least one European band.

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